In life, there are winners and losers.

However, over the course of a generation, we parents have tried to erase the “winning” and “losing” vocabulary from childhood. Our children sign up for little league ball, and everyone gets a trophy at the end of the season. Everyone goes home happy.

Participation ribbons, awards for just showing up, these are derided by many parents as the “wussification” of our society. They demand that we show our children that not everyone in the world wins. You can’t just win by showing up.

I believe that is true.

Some kids were not born to win. Some are losers.

What we parents often do not see is just how much more competitive we have become with our children over the past few generations. Sure, we may tolerate participation awards. But our goals as parents, as a culture, have shifted.

We used to strive to raise good citizens.

Now, we raise our children to win. We need our children to be competitive, against all the other children. So they can get into a good college, and launch a good career, and have a good salary and “win” at life.

It’s our kids versus everyone else’s kids.

The problem is that we used to see all the kids in our communities as our kids. It wasn’t our kids versus those other kids.

I’ve been reading Robert Putnam’s book, appropriately titled Our Kids, and he makes this very point.

Why as a culture, are our kids failing, falling behind the rest of the world?

Because we have raised them in an us versus them society.

So yeah, I want my son to know that there are losers in life. Some kids are losers. They lost the cosmic lottery and wound up without enough to eat. They lost and have to attend a poor school. They lost and have to deal with crime and broken neighborhoods. I am afraid that on both sides of the coin, there is something missing. One side says that all kids are winners, and the other side is super competitive, and I’m not sure either one teaches our children to see the real injustice that is in the world. One trains them to think that everyone is the same as them. The other teaches that it’s everyone for himself.

How do all of our kids become winners?

children

All our kids become winners when we adults start treating all children like our children. Children start winning when we stop pitting them against each other.

I want my son to know that there are winners and losers in life.

And I hope he has the compassion to do something about it.

Can it even be true?abort3

You and I and everyone else has surely been watching the news, the videos, the protests surrounding Planned Parenthood. Some of us may have suspected that more atrocities were happening than the public was aware of. Others deny that anything is happening at all, that the videos have been doctored to look particularly damning.

Here’s what I know.

I know I have never been inside a Planned Parenthood.

Therefore, I can’t say for certain what goes on.

But this I do know this…

Evil is everywhere. And if the allegations are true, it would not surprise me. It would not surprise me at all if there were doctors who were harvesting babies for profit.

It would not surprise me at all, because one time, several years ago, I had a brush with a doctor who did just this very thing. He ran an illegal, black-market, fetal organ harvesting operation…

…And he was a part of my church.

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Dealing with high schoolers every day, I find that they often have something in common…

It is a drive, a yearning…

A hope to find themselves.

It’s hard to truly find yourself in high school. Your world is still confined to a small group of other teenagers, and a handful of teachers.

After leaving high school, most teenagers will eagerly head off to college, to continue their quest for self. They will no longer be chained by parents or a dusty old hometown.

I remember that quest. I remember how many of my peers changed their outward appearance over a summer, or moved to a new town, or did something else in an effort to define themselves.

The thing is, the problems we had back home often find us in a new town.

And changing our outward appearance doesn’t make us feel much differently.

The key to finding ourselves, I have found, is as Socrates told us…

To find ourselves, we have to think for ourselves.

Think about any great quest we read in a novel or watch in a movie. The character may face outward hazards. He may have nearly insurmountable odds. But oftentimes, the greatest triumph is actually in himself.

There is a lot of pressure to never find ourselves, because there are forces in our world to persuade us not to think for ourselves.

We tell our kids about peer pressure. We want them to be independent. But then, we adults do the same thing.

We collectively foam at the mouth for a politician’s promises. We willingly let ourselves be duped by advertisements. We follow gurus and guides for every decision we have to make. We buy into a version of “The American Dream” that doesn’t really work because it never makes us happy.

find yourself

Adults, if we are going to set an example for our children, we have to think for ourselves. We have to be willing to go against the grain.

We have to be willing to step out of the boat.

Or even live out of step with our culture.

We don’t have to move to a new city. We don’t even have to get a tattoo or dye our hair.

We just have to start by thinking, and the rest will follow.

What’s in a name?

Last week, while walking with my family around the neighborhood, we passed by the elementary school, with a yard sign out front. A church was renting the space on Sunday.

“Oasis of Love Family Church.”IMG_0384

I kind of cringed at the name while I snapped a picture. For one, “Oasis of Love” sounds kind of funny. If I moved to Nevada and opened a brothel, I might call it “Oasis of Love.”

But even more so, I cringed at the second part of the name, “Family Church.”

There were lots of things this church could’ve done. They could have used just the word “church.” They might have paired it with the word “community.” They may have called their church a “worship center.”

But of all the choices they had, they used those specific words. And in so doing, they illustrated what many of our churches are guilty of, a guilt that I thought about while I walked home with my new little family…

…Our churches have made an idol out of family.

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Life is full of first days.

This week, most of our kids will have another first day of school, if they haven’t already.

And there is a reason that many schools put the first day of school in the middle of the week. First days are hard. 

I remember being especially nervous for my first day of fourth grade. I don’t know why. It just seemed like a new tier in life and I wasn’t sure I was prepared, though I was always an enthusiastic student. But I distinctly remember about halfway through the day, looking around my new classroom, the place where I would spend my days for the next nine months and believing that things were going to be okay.

And they were okay. I had a wonderful teacher and a great year.

What I have realized as a teacher is that first days are hard on our end too. I’ve had around 27 or so first days of school over my lifetime, as a student and a teacher. The teachers are nervous too. Most of us showed up before in-service to get ready.

The thing about first days is they don’t stop. There are first days of school, first days on the new baseball team, and more general first days, like first days in a new town, first dates, first days of marriage, first days on the job, first days of parenthood, first days of retirement.

I doubt that first days ever stop being a little intimidating. But first days of school are a great time to help our children grow in something…

bravery.

It does take bravery to get on that school bus for the first time. It takes bravery to walk into a room with a stranger, to sit by new people and have no idea what the next year is going to look like.

But you and I all know something…It’s all going to be okay.

It’s going to be okay. Our kids will come home with smiles on their faces. They will have realized the same thing. It’s going to be okay. Their bravery paid off.

bravery

It might be the most enduring lesson we can give our children.

Bravery might be the quality that takes them furthest in life…even after fourth grade.

target12n-2-web

Read: “Building Sets” and “Crappy Building Sets”

When did we decide that blocks were for boys?

This week, you might be aware, that Target announced that it would soon be ridding its toy departments of gender specific signage and colors. Signs that read “building sets” and “girls’ building sets” will be henceforth eliminated.

There have been a lot of praises heaped on Target…and a lot of criticism. A lot of people who think Target has “caved to the PC crowd.” Plenty of people on Facebook claimed that they would be boycotting the store. Some parents even complained that Target was contributing to the “gender confusion” of children or trying “to turn them gay.”

At first, I really thought the move was unnecessary at best and silly at worst.

But the more I’ve thought about it, and the world I want my boy to grow up in, the more I think that it’s the right move.

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